Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Pacific Trade Deal, Rail Cars, Chemical Spill

by | Jan 17, 2014

Contentious negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement threaten to unravel important global environmental protections, the New York Times reported, citing WIkiLeaks and other sources. Environmentalists told the paper that the draft seems to show the US retreating on legally binding pollution controls, logging rules and a ban on shark fin harvesting.

The US Department of Transportation said regulations forcing oil companies to use stronger rail cars for crude oil – a topic facing renewed interest after several recent derailments and fires – will not be proposed until November and will be subject to a public comment period until January 2015. This timeline could face delays, Fuel Fix reported.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee plans to hold a hearing in the next few weeks on the West Virginia chemical spill, The Hill reports.

House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) inserted a rider into the $1 trillion omnibus bill that would prevent the US Army Corps of Engineers from tightening rules on the dumping of mining waste into streams, The Hill reports.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 40 other Republicans will seek to stop the EPA carbon standards for new power plants by filing a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act. The act is a rarely used legislative tool that lets Congress block executive branch rules, The Hill says.

David Schweikert (R-AZ) will replace Chris Stewart (R-UT) as chair of the House Science Committee’s environment subcommittee. Schweikert has questioned the extent to which human activity is responsible for climate change, the Huffington Post reports.

AllenCo Energy committed violations of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act at its South Los Angeles oil production facility, the EPA has concluded following an inspection. The EPA found that AllenCo failed to inspect pressure vessels, piping and tanks, and failed to train personnel on proper operation, among other violations. The South Coast Air Quality Management District has received hundreds of complaints from residents near the facility, about noxious odors and health effects such as headaches and nose-bleeds, since 2010.

Large-scale mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed poses risks to salmon and Alaska Native cultures, the EPA concluded in a final assessment. Tribes and others have petitioned the EPA for years regarding Pebble Mine, a North Dynasty Minerals project proposed for the area. The latest report doesn’t recommend any policy or regulatory action and the EPA hasn’t set a timeline to respond to the petitions, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

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